Where to eat in the Maldives: Chef Nonky Tejapermana

Born in Jakarta, Indonesian-Japanese chef Nonky Tejapermana​ has had a well-travelled career. She worked in high-end hotels in London and Dubai and in the air (for Qatar Airways). While working for P&O Australia, she met Australian chef Luke Mangan​. Tejapermana now runs Lonu by Luke Mangan​ and several other restaurants at Amilla Fushi Luxury Resort. See amilla.mv, lukemangan.com.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE TABLE IN THE MALDIVES?

Can I say Lonu? It's a little bit private, very cosy, very relaxed. In other countries, we need to make a fake view, but in Lonu everything is real: the ocean view, you can hear the waves, you can feel the sea breeze. 

LOCAL FOOD DISCOVERY OF THE PAST YEAR?

"Short eats" like finger food, mostly made with locally caught yellow fin tuna. The curry here is also very nice; it's different to Indian curry because it's made using Maldivian chilli and curry leaves, pandan leaves and dry tuna, which really add flavour. 

WHAT IS THE MALDIVES' BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET?

The fresh produce, particularly watermelon, zucchini and pineapples. We're planning to plant and grow organic herbs here, so I can pick everything from the garden for our adults' and kids' cooking classes. 

FAVOURITE INDULGENCE IN THE MALDIVES?

I don't get much time off, because we're still new, but whenever I get a chance, I go to a spa for a full-body relaxation massage. The spas in the Maldives are world-class, and I need to go regularly, because there is so much pressure in the kitchen, both mental and physical. 

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BEST TIME TO VISIT MALDIVES AND WHY?

There are two seasons, with the high season being December to March, but the low season is also very good, particularly June to July; it can rain a little, but the water clarity is good and it's not so crowded. 

WHAT KIND OF FOOD SHOULD A VISITOR AVOID IN THE MALDIVES?

Junk food, and buffets. At some resorts, it's buffet, buffet, buffet at every meal. We follow United Kingdom public health standards, so food is thrown out after four hours at our breakfast buffet; everything else we make fresh to order.

WHAT'S HOT IN THE MALDIVES RIGHT NOW?

Open kitchens, where guests can see us cooking for them. There's more interaction, so it's not only service people who speak to the guests, and we can hear feedback from them. Resorts in the Maldives aren't like city hotels; people stay at least four days, so we need to know what they like. 

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THE MALDIVES?

The views are very nice when you live on an island. Wherever you are, you can see the clear water: from the restaurants, from the jetty, even from the kitchen. 

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